INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Colonel Mark Smith never backed down from a fight.
He was a man who gave his life to service.
In over 30 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, he became known for pouring his heart out to the families of fallen Marines with his weekly emails during the war in Iraq.
Later in his career, he would serve as an Indiana State Trooper.
However, in 2012 he got into the biggest fight of his life. He was diagnosed with lung cancer.
His daughters, Nichole and Brittani had front row seats, not just to watch, but to cheer him on and help him fight back.
“I think that was the first time I really saw my dad cry,” his youngest daughter, Brittani Smith said.
“He was so strong and most people did not know he was in so much pain,” Nichole Slick said.
They say the man most knew as tough, found his greatest strength in his weakness for his girls.
“He said the last thing you want to be in front of your daughters is weak, but I never saw him as weak,” Smith said.
They knew the man behind the fighter and they say he was fun and goofy.
“We just did so many fun things and made so many memories.”
One sticks out above the rest: Nichole’s wedding day.
“It was a big party because dad had insisted on it being that way,” Nichole said.
“It was his last best day and it was a good one,” Brittani said.
Col. Smith knew he would only make one daughter’s wedding.
Cancer had spread throughout his body.
Three months later he took his last breath.
“He opened up his eyes really wide and looked up and you just watched him go,” Nichole said.
He died Friday, March 29, 2019.
The memories, while wonderful, don’t fill the void he left behind.
They say they’ll miss his voice, his hugs and his advice, but they find comfort in knowing their dad touched so many and not just here in the U.S.
The Oriley Funeral Home created an online tribute wall for Col. Smith for people to pay their respects and support the family.
People from all over the world sent their condolences.
“We have just now gotten a look at how much he loved those families and how much he loved those Marines,” Nichole said.
“Just hearing how much of an impact he made. It’s been overwhelming but in a good way, Nichole said.”
His girls send a message to him that even though he’s gone, his legacy will never die.
In Col. Smith’s final act of service, as an organ donor, he gave his eyes to someone who needed them.
The funeral is happening at 10 a.m today at St. Mark Catholic Church. He’ll be buried at the Calvary Cemetary with full military honors provided by the U.S. Marine corps.
If you’d like to contribute to the memory of Col. Smith or send well wishes to the family, click here.